Bombay High Court on Monday accepted Maharashtra government’s suggestion that children below 14 years should not be allowed to participate in the Dahi Handi festival. But the refused to impose any restriction on the height of human pyramid.
A division bench of Justices BR Gavai and MS Karnik said it was not for the High Court to impose restrictions on the age of the participants, popularly called ‘govindas’.
“Imposing age and height restrictions is out of our purview. This falls exclusively in the domain of the state legislature…If we enter the arena of the state legislature then we would be encroaching. It is for the state legislature to decide and pass an enactment on the restrictions if required,” Justice Gavai said.
“We accept the statement made by the state government that it would ensure children below 14 years of age would not participate in the Dahi Handi festival,” the judge said.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, told the court that according to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, children below 14 years of age would not be allowed to participate in the festival since the government had in August last year declared Dahi Handi as an adventure sport.
The High Court was hearing two petitions filed by city residents, raising concern over the participation of minors in the festival and lack of safety measures due.
Dahi Handi, a festival marking the birth of Lord Krishna, will be celebrated next week. The festivities involve forming a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pitcher filled with buttermilk which is tied to a rope at a height.
In 2014, the High Court had passed an order saying children below the age of 18 years could not participate in the festival, and had also imposed a height restriction of 20 feet for the pyramids.
The state government had then appealed in the Supreme Court, which on August 1, 2017, referred the matter back to the High Court directing it to hear the petitions afresh.
“While the concerns raised by the petitioners are laudable, we feel that most of the directions issued by the high court in its 2014 order pertaining to safety and remedial measures have been accepted by the state government,” Justice Gavai noted.
Some of the safety measures include providing helmets, safety belts and cushion layers to prevent severe injuries in case of accidents. The government also agreed to providing immediate medical attention when needed. Also, adequate police presence has been promised.
(With inputs from PTI)